Thursday, January 11, 2018

Re-Building (Blog) Community

The new year post on plastic legions (link) started off by rueing the state of the blog. Social media has swallowed a lot of the vitality from the blogosphere and old style forum. The comment section on that post is quite interesting (go read it, I'll wait).

It's quite obvious that other the last few years there has been a steady fall off in blog activity. Non updated blogs, viewership numbers dropping, much less comments.  It feels like like the pic to the right, there are people around but just not many, and not right here.

On the other hand, I look at how vibrant the oldhammer community is (both with rogue trader style items, as well as fantasy). I believe that this issue comes down to community. Humans are social animals, and we wish to make connection with others. On the interwebz, specifically within blogs, that ends up coming through comments. I assume that you move onto greater things where you start creating group projects and mailing each other minis at some point, but that's like shangri la to me.

One of the problems of social media is that you post pictures instead of tell tales. There is a need for a balance between concise writing and enough photos: we've all seen bad examples of posts of solid text [like this one] but social media falls on the other extreme. You don't make connection with a well painted mini, you make connection by hearing about painting struggles, reading paint recipes, appreciating plans for the future, or steps in the conversion.


Another problem is that it's too easy to lurk in social media. You can like on a like button instead of commenting. It makes us lazy. Too lazy to exercise our ability to comment. I expect that readership numbers on most blogs are far, FAR higher than comments, even taking into account bots. We expect to have a stream of entertainment sleet through us without us needing to make effort to engage it.

Social media isn't just killing the blogs by leaching their traffic, they are killing them by making us entertainment zombies. Our hobbies are about doing stuff. If you can't manage to do stuff yourself, don't you owe a debt to those who do by commenting on their work/effort?

I think my favorite part of the hobby challenge I did in the past (6MMRPC) was the regulars you saw churning out work and who would comment on your own efforts. One of the key features in my mind was about requiring regular posts (weekly). I would personally have added a requirement to comment on at least two other peoples posts. I haven't seen much in the way of (painting) challenges lately (except, again, with the oldhammerers).

Maybe some sort of challenge that is more about (re)building the blog community is needed?  It may be time to explicitly state that as a goal with painting tagged on, rather than the other way.

I, personally, have resolved this year to engage more with the blogs I read, and try and comment on every post I read. It is but a fraction of the time and effort the authors put into them.

19 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you, daveb!
    Blogs take a lot of work to maintain (and a fair amount of time when you read the blogs of others), but as you say, our hobby is all about doing stuff. For my part, the blog community is a huge part of why I do what I do. Until I started blogging, I felt pretty isolated in my enthusiasms -- most of my contact with other Oldhammerers was betting against them on eBay. Now, every time I paint or post, I feel like I'm part of a movement. It's lovely.

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    1. Thanks for your input Matthew. I found blogging a bit sparse to begin with, but once you start making connection and community it truly is inspiring for doing more hobby work. I think this is one of the reasons why I feel strongly about this topic and hope to help build/preserve it.

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  2. Right on man, right on!*raises fist*

    BTW, we should try to get together and play a game.

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    1. Yes, I've thinking thinking how remiss I've been about trying to organize something. New children are terrible time and energy sinks though =P

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  3. Part of the issue with maintaining a blog is that google have stopped updating the app, meaning it's a pain to have to dig out a laptop to make a post whereas before I could do it from my phone! Instagram seems to be a better platform for getting responses these days...
    I like the sounds of a challenge though, build it and they will come?

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    1. This is an angle that doesn't occur to me very often. I've always owned a desktop and prefer it to my phone for 'computer work'. I also like the bigger image for hobby stuff. Reading articles my phone wins.
      I don't use instagram but I can at least appreciate that the format is better for a 'historical' view of content. I suspect that the format is not super conductive to a multi-picture with narrative/discussion format?
      I feel like challenges tend to draw people in. And they can be repeated! And sure, by building a better blog community perhaps we will lose less people who might otherwise stay (who consider it a dying medium and leave?).

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    1. I just realized I'm not following your blog. What a silly oversight.

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  5. A very fine ambition Dave, and I have only just realised that I have been remiss in not having tagged myself as following your blog (which I have just rectified).

    I think blogs will be with us for a time to come, as I find Facebook too intrusive and have to wade through endless posts of people's photos of their grandchildren, dogs, cats and avaocado on toast breakfasts before I find anything that is remotely interesting.

    I much prefer the relaxed pace of a good old-fashioned 2014-style Google blog.

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    1. Meaning all of our blogs, I hasten to add. Yours looks far more modern than mine.

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    2. I'm sure mine only looks more modern because I don't have a ghosted historical map in my background. =) I feel the urge to get something 'more exciting' back there but I don't really want too much visual clutter or anything that makes it hard for older eyes to read. Maybe that's the source of the 'modern' look?

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  6. I'm not sure how I feel about all this. Before I started my blog, I built a webpage. At it's peak, I had a message board installed so I could get comments. I had a landing/menu page and, although it required more "tech crunching", it was wayyy more flexible than my blog. I could organize my landing page by subject rather than my "latest" appearing at the top, and a bunch of other things that made it much more suited to me.

    BUT, things move on, and I accepted that blogs were where all the cool kids were, and I am happy with my blog as a storytelling device and a repository for my creativity.

    So it seems possible that we are just going through another platform shift. I like my blog, but I also liked my web page, and I also liked the usenet groups of the distant past.

    Facebook feels like a terrible place for continuity, but I've already seen guys who used to have blogs start migrating their content to FB. Eh, we'll adapt, and maybe it will revitalize the miniature community in their own way. Just like blogs did before them.

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    1. I don't want to sound like a luddite (or tek-heretik) here. There is certainly the 'change is hard' aspect to these things (i.e. why can't it stay the same). I do, however, feel like we have been suffering from a lot of 'improvements' churned out by tech companies (and non tech too) that are anything but. A general 'crapification' of products.

      Facebook is incredibly well engineered for their ends. Their ends involve placing ads and commercializing personal data. So they are interesting in you streaming through your content fast. More scrolling is more ads, more likes allow for interpreting what ads to show you. I think that medium is fairly barren ground for the type of hobby content that I've come to appreciate and hope to see more of (like your work Major).

      I suspect an element of people migrating is 1/. the perception that people aren't on blogs anymore (there's a fair number of dead blogs to support that) and 2./ "Convenience".

      I fear that the convenience is the same type of 'gift' we get with free newspapers online. Great to begin with, but it gets hollowed out and crapified over time.

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  7. I think the big advantage of The Blog over Facebook or Instagram is it is a great format for documenting your work for your own enjoyment yet at the same time being able to share with others. The other options allow easier sharing but are poor as a 'journal'.

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    1. I'm in full agreement. Although I find my 'reading list' of blog on the blogger console a create way to curate the blogs I do want to follow regularly. I'm not sure that with facebook I end up seeing the regulars I like. It's more about the most recent poster....whoever that ends up being.

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  8. Where is that button? Oh, here it is. *Like* :)

    What? Want more? That would take, like, um, effort like.......

    Very good points. I still maintain my blog as a 'permanent record' of my wargaming activities and photos in case of my personal computer going kaput and losing all those memories. I write the text to entertain myself and not to be so boring hopefully for any readers who might stubble upon it or having wargamer buddies reminiscing about that game in which they participated.

    I no longer "show off" newly painted stuff unless it has a purpose and certainly not to gain any praise. My painting is not particularly good these days....with old eyes and impatient speed.

    But I am a bit of a luddite and not much of an internet socialite and certainly don't do Facebook or Twitter etc. I don't often comment on other blogs though I visit often. I never was a follower in real life. Never sought autographs from famous people. Didn't even care if they were in the room. Thus I never even thought to "follow" other blogs. But I do have them bookmarked. But, yes, I am surprised by the number of followers for my blog. So perhaps I should *like* more and follow if only to help the community along.

    The flip side of course is we do so much following that we do all our wargaming vicariously and not experience it 'in the flesh'. Want to visit Machu Picchu? Just go to YouTube. Want to see a good Boer War game, just read a blog post.
    Oh to be sure, I am inspired by others blogs and often get good ideas and 'hacks' but I do still try to maintain my own imagination and inspiration and that, above all, keeps my hobby fun for me.
    Cheers.

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    1. I appreciate the content you put up DOug. And obviously there are numerous people who feel the same way and comment on most of your posts.

      Considering that you've developed a ruleset and convinced a solid core of wargamers to paint and base in your style you might be considered something of a thought leader or influencer....

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  9. Yes, yes and yes. I despise Facebook in general and find it quite useless as a platform for documenting my exploration of various fabulous and historical landscapes. It is also quite unsuited to the meaningful exchange of information and inspiration with other such explorers. It's unfortunate that SM is draining content from the Blogosphere but I intend to stick with Blogger until Google finally abandons it. Glad to see that there are many others who still feel the same way. I resolve to post more and comment more in this year than in the last.

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    1. Good company to join me with my resolution this year. Yay!

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